27
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

RFA Profile: Micheal Ferland

While Micheal Ferland burst onto the scene with the Calgary Flames thanks to his savage performance in the 2015 postseason, his true coming out party wasn’t until this past season. During the 2016-17 campaign, Ferland emerged as one of the team’s most consistent forwards and took off offensively in the final two months. Now, in need of a new deal as a pending restricted free agent, Ferland sure looks like an important piece for the Flames for the foreseeable future.

This look at Ferland is the fourth of our free agent profiles this summer with our focus shifting to unrestricted players next. Here’s what we have so far:

Now looking for his third NHL contract, Ferland has more leverage than he ever has. In saying that, though, nailing down what his next deal might look like isn’t the easiest of exercises.

Evidence

Now with three NHL seasons under his belt, Ferland has gradually turned into an effective forward and has improved each year in the league. A quick look at Ferland’s progression since his rookie season shows you that.

Ferland has certainly had his peaks and valleys during his brief NHL career. After setting the league on fire with his playoff performance against the Vancouver Canucks in April 2015, Ferland’s follow-up season (with a one-way contract in tow) was somewhat underwhelming. While he wasn’t bad and never hurt the team, Ferland didn’t quite live up to the expectations many had after the impact he made the prior spring.

Ferland’s 2016-17 season, though, was solid the whole way through. Granted, most of his offence came in the final few months after being put on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Prior to that trio’s formation, though, Ferland was generally effective with myriad linemates. In fact, if you go back to December, I outlined Ferland’s underrated impact on the team in an early piece about protecting him in June’s expansion draft.

When I wrote that column, Ferland was about halfway through the season and was one of Calgary’s top ranked forwards in both possession and scoring metrics. Once being put with Monahan and Gaudreau (more on that in the next section), those numbers only got better. The ranks below are amongst Flames’ forwards last season. All scoring rates courtesy Corsica.

Basically, Ferland was right there with Kris Versteeg as Calgary’s “best of the rest” forward, if you assume Gaudreau, Monahan, and the 3M Line are the five best on the team. For his $825,000 cap hit, Ferland was dynamite value for the Flames in 2016-17, and much of what he accomplished looks sustainable going forward.

Deliberation

Of course, it would be easy to chalk Ferland’s emergence up to his promotion to the team’s top scoring line. Obviously riding shotgun with Monahan and Gaudreau is going to do wonders for most players’ numbers, and Ferland was no different. That trio was formed prior to Calgary’s thrilling 6-5 overtime win in Nashville on Feb. 21, a game where Ferland scored twice in the first period. His production continued to see a dramatic spike for the rest of the season.

As you can see, Ferland went from being decently productive at five-on-five to being one of the team’s most prolific even strength scorers. It’s important to note, though, even after being grouped with Monahan and Gaudreau late in the season, Ferland was still barely seeing any powerplay time. Over his 76 games, Ferland averaged just 0:27 of powerplay time per game, while only four of his 25 points came on the man advantage. That helps explain why Ferland’s even strength scoring rates were as high as they were over the course of the season.

While Ferland gained a ton by being placed on the right side of the team’s top scoring line, Monahan and Gaudreau benefitted by the decision, too. Because they formed a cohesive line, everyone’s offensive numbers went way up from Feb. 21 on.

As you can see, the bump both players saw in their even strength scoring rates was staggering. Of course, I’m not saying Ferland is the only reason why things took such a dramatic turn. Both Monahan and Gaudreau had slow starts and really found their groove in the final months of the season. But to say Ferland didn’t contribute significantly would be burying your head in the sand.

It is important to note how high Ferland’s shooting percentage was last season, which is the only indicator that points to regression. At 14.2%, Ferland shot the lights out in 2016-17 and he’ll see that come down at some point, likely next season. However, if he continues being a solid possession player, I think 10-20 goals per season is reasonable even when his shooting percentage normalizes a little bit.

Verdict

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. First off, the Flames should, and almost certainly will, protect Ferland in the expansion draft because there’s a very good chance he’d get selected if left exposed. In that same vein, then, it makes sense for Calgary to qualify Ferland prior to the June 25 deadline. After that, though, things get a little more difficult.

Personally I’m pretty sold on Ferland and would push for a longer term deal, as in a term longer than one or two years. But to sign Ferland to, say, a four-year deal, they’d be buying up some of his UFA earning years, which might push the price a little higher. There are a lot of things at work here, but coming off a really solid season, Ferland has some decent leverage in the negotiations.

Making matters more complicated is Ferland’s arbitration status, as he’s eligible to go down that road this summer. The arbitration deadline is July 5, so we’ll know be then if Ferland chooses that option. Because of all the elements involved, I’m really not sure what this deal will end up looking like at the end of the day. However, I don’t think a three- or four-year contract between $1.5 and $2 million per season is crazy, because I think keeping him in the fold for the next number of years is important.

      • supra steve

        Brian Burke was on the radio yesterday explaining how size with skill and toughness is such a scarce commodity that is generally only available via the draft. The Flames know how valuable Ferland is, and they know he could really become something special in the next few years. There is NO WAY he is not on their protected list.

    • everton fc

      He is certainly worth this. And if they ink him for $2.5/2.75mil for four years, and he scores 20+ goals… Which I am convinced he will if left w/Gaudreau and Monahan… What a deal! He wants to be here, though I bet he’d like to be in Winnipeg, as well. Have to secure him – he’s been part of the core, to this fan, since the Canucks series. Just needed time to get on track.

  • buts

    I think the guy is ready for prime time and the sky is the limit. He’s just starting to play with the confidence in himself that will make him a star in the league.

  • BendingCorners

    On a cap team the average salary is over 3MM. No way he signs for 1.5 or 2.0. Anything less than 3.0 means a short deal and he leaves as soon as he can.

  • C Watson

    There is no way Ferland is left unprotected. Flames will protect 7 forwards. Johnny, Mony and the 3M line are top 5 with Ferly #6. On the bubble for #7 are Chaisson, Lazar or God forbid, Brouwer.
    Besides having skill, speed and good hands, Ferly also plays heavy and smart, taking very few penalties. There is no doubt he should get the front of net power play assignment ahead of Brouwer. Going forward, I think a 2 – 3 year bridge deal at between 2M and 2.5M per is the way to go.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames have a little over $21m to sign their own RFA’s (all forwards), 3 NHL defenceman, 2 NHL goalies and 1 upgrade at forward. They will protect their 3 top defenders, then Johnny/Monny/Backs/Frolik/Sam/Ferland and???, they still don’t have a goalie they have to protect. Do they have to protect one or just expose one? Bennett should be a bridge contract and Ferland should be somewhere between Bouma’s money and 2.7 for 3 or more year. BT has some work to do.

  • Puckhead

    If Ferland stays on the top line then $2.5M sounds acceptable. If, however, the plan is to find a another #1 forward this would likely bump him down to the 3rd line, in which case $1.5-2M seems reasonable.

    • piscera.infada

      After looking at the picture the numbers paint above, full well knowing their context, and what I (and several other posters) argued last off-season (that Ferland should be given a legitimate shot on the first line), I am very content if the plan going into next year is to let Ferland determine his future riding shotgun with Gaudreau and Monahan. Honestly, he doesn’t even need to be a ~50-60 point producer to make it work. He just needs to play his role, and points will come. He definitely can do it. It’s incumbent on Gulutzan to trust it–he had really good underlying numbers with them in 2015/16 as well.

      The only thing that changes the above for me, is if there’s some magical, sweet-heart, unicorn deal for a legitimate top-6 right-winger on a very team-friendly deal. Which, is almost definitely not going to happen–because, you know, ‘unicorn’, and all. The Flames as an organisation have bigger fish to fry than that “legit top-line right-winger” I see people clamouring for.

    • supra steve

      Nope. Sign him to the best deal you can, where he MAY play shouldn’t change what the Flames are prepared to offer, or what the player is willing to accept.

      • Puckhead

        What I am saying is that if, for some reason, Tre is intending to sign a #1RW this season then I wouldn’t go throwing around Brouwer type money. If the end result will drop him to the third line there has to a ceiling for how much you pay your depth players.

        I am fine with him being on the first line and would prefer to a different 4th line this season.

  • Eggs Bennett

    As good as he is, he isn’t lights out $3M plus material yet… P60 only points to a 0.4-0.5 PPG player. Bringing Johnny and Monny’s corsi down during his time with them is a bit of a red flag to me. Bet you if you included PDO and SH% in that before and after table, it’d be pretty telling that there was quite a bit of puck luck going their way. Sure he didn’t get the PP time deserved, but his regression in SH% should compensate for that difference. And what if he gets superseded by a legit top line RW as we enter our cup window? I’d say $2.0 x 3. Exceed expectations and prove me wrong. Hard to see BT going higher than this, given that he (rightfully) let Big Joe walk when he wanted $2.5M following a 40 pt season.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    It is tough to know what Ferland’s ceiling is, but is not hard to see that he can do things that very few players can. He seems to be slowly building his game like Simmonds which would be fantastic. He needs to be more of a net front presence and push for PP time. He has a great wrist shot, I would like to see him be the go to guy for one timers…. Since we are lacking that type of weapon.

  • freethe flames

    I like Ferland and he seems to be the current best fit on that line but he could fit almost anywhere in the line up. We all can speculate about how much his salary will be but like so much else nothing comes to be until BT does something. This down time leads to a lot of speculation and some frustration for us fans.

  • Just.Visiting

    There were a number of serious player management issues last season. Not moving Ferland up the chart was one. Other obvious ones were the continued insistence on playing Wideman, Brouwer on the PP, not playing Dogie on first unit, playing Chiasson on the first line. Ferland had a very good year, where he can build on his confidence and deliver better numbers this year. I like his functional toughness-tough without being dirty, and he has better hands and shot than people had thought. That being said, my sense is that he’s only on the first line until management believes something better comes along. My own preference would be to move Tkachuk to the first line and have either Ferland or Janko with the Mikes and the other on the third line with Sam. I think that would give us three strong lines without giving up talent to solve the infamous RW problem.

    • freethe flames

      Don’t you get the same thing done w/o moving a bunch of players. Just one might be enough; that being Tkachuk to a line with Bennett and then Janko on the LW with Backs/Frolik. The problem being who would be the RW with that line; the easiest answer would be Versteeg for a year. But to get significantly better it’s the 4th line that needs to be significantly addressed; a team can’t be paying $10m for a 4th line that is not very good if it wants to be a real contender. The Flames can only really afford to have one of that line playing if they want to move forward. Bouma is relatively easy to deal with by burying him in the AHL and have him play the same role that Bollig did this past season. I doubt seriously that the Flames will buy Brouwer out or be able to move him unless they can swing a deal with Vegas to select him but as much as want to see it happen it can’t be at the expense of a top prospect.(I would be okay with a Pollock/Spoon for a 2nd rounder if they took him; LV needs to add some players to fill 1/2 and AHL team) Stajan is the third option and he could be bought out but I suspect there is a lot of loyalty to the man in the team management.

      For the Flames to take the next step upfront there needs to be a lot of player growth this off season and they need to be given a chance to show it. Ferland needs to build on what we saw last year, Tkachuk needs to be better(he seemed to be less effective after his suspension), Bennett needs to take the step forward most of us expected last year, Lazar needs to prove he was worthy of being traded for and that is just the NHL guys. After that we need to have the other former 1st rounders push the pile; Janko appears to be ready but would be better served playing with the likes of Backs/Frolik than playing as the 4th line center, both Shinkaruk and Klimchuk need to prove they can play in the NHL and the need a chance to do so. Hathaway demonstrated last year that he can be an effective alternative on an energy line and would prefer him over Brouwer. Mangiapane had a good rookie year and may be closer than we think.Then there is Poirier who one continues to hope on; his skill set and reputation as being a pain could ideally make him an ideal 4th liner. (might he be the sweetener to get LV to take Brouwer; a new start for the young man) However all of this still leaves us w/o a true RH/RW to play in the top 9 . It’s great to babble about what we think should be done but the truth is we wait on BT to do something.